Compare and contrast the following essays: “Harry” and “The Superstitious Man’s Story”. This essay will compare and contrast two ghost stories: “Harry” and “The Superstitious Man’s Story. ” It will analyse the story genre, the typical conventions of ghost stories and also the different literary techniques used by the two different authors. Ghost stories provide us with ways of thinking about death, dying and grieving. They also help us to explore our uncertainties about the supernatural and whether there is any form of life after death.
Authors build on the fact that, whatever we believe, no one can be definite of what happens to the spirit when our bodies die. This creates an element of mystery and often keeps the reader guessing whether the characters in the story have actually seen a spirit or are being driven by grief or fear to imagine that they have. Ghost stories portray the meeting of two worlds, the world of the living and the world of the dead, and tension is created about whether a character will step over the borders from one world to another. Authors enjoy including dramatic twists at the end of the stories, as readers are usually misled up to this point.
Many ghost stories contain a lot of direct speech, with people telling the story ‘in their own words’. The relevance of the story being written in first person is because the reader is led to believe that the person was there and is now retelling a past event. Many readers enjoy ghost stories because they tap into our own fear of death and the unknown, stirring up many emotions within us. The two stories I will be comparing are “The Superstitious Man’s Story” written by Thomas Hardy, and “Harry”. Thomas Hardy wrote “The Superstitious Man’s Story” in 1894.
This short story is based upon the superstition of Midsummer Eve. William, the husband of Betty Privett, is ‘seen’ by her to leave their house on Midsummer Eve. When she returns upstairs she realises he is still in bed. The following morning he questions her about a sign that she had left on the door that read “Mind and do the door” she explains her story but he insists he never left the house that night. As the story progresses Betty meets Nancy who indirectly tells her that her husband was seen entering the church. The superstition is that because he went to the church and did not return, he is supposed to die.
Three days later William was found dead, he was also simultaneously seen at Longpuddle Spring, but William was known not to visit there, as this was the site of his only child’s death years earlier. Rosemary Timperley wrote “Harry” in the 1950’s. This story is about an adopted little girl, Christine, who starts talking to an imaginary friend, named Harry. Her mother, Mrs. James, gets extremely worried about her unusual behaviour and takes her to a doctor, who just tells her there is nothing to worry about. Christine says that Harry is her brother.
The reader feels a presence of Harry whenever white rose bushes are mentioned. On the very day that Christine starts school, Mrs. James goes to the adoption society to find out more about Christine’s parents. She finds out that Christine’s father had attempted to kill the family by leaving the gas on as they slept because he was finding it difficult to support them. However, Christine’s brother, Harry had escaped through a window. Harry unfortunately died trying to save Christine’s life. Suddenly a clock strikes three and Mrs. James rushes back to school to collect Christine.
When she arrives at school she asks where Christine is. The teacher tells her that her brother Harry had been in to collect her. Mrs. James frantically runs around screaming for Harry to return with Christine. Unfortunately nothing happens. In the opening of “Harry” a certain amount of tension is created because we are being immediately introduced to a portion of the protagonist’s psyche which deals with the aspect of fear; for the narrator states, “Such ordinary things make me afraid. Sunshine. Sharp shadows on grass. White roses. Children with red hair. And the name – Harry.
Such ordinary things. ” This creates a sense of mystery because the reader subconsciously questions why she is afraid of such “ordinary things”. The very concept of fear is mysterious because we all feel a sense of fear at some time or the other in our lives but the things that contribute to the feeling of fear is unique for each of us. With regard to the narrator, the very fact that such ordinary things contribute to her fear creates suspense. Within the opening lines the narrator also mentions that she felt a “premonition of fear” when her daughter first mentioned the name Harry.